Aviation Minister Cautions Local Airlines Over N513billion Debt

Senator Hadi Sirika, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Aviation has disclosed that two domestic airlines owe a total of N513 billion to aviation parastatals just as he called on aviation managers in the country to be more prudent in managing the business of aviation. The Minister who spoke with journalists yesterday at the General Aviation Terminal (GAT) in Lagos State, said the present administration would not allow airlines to accumulate debts and then run to Abuja to seek for all manners of waivers.

According to him, the domestic airlines would make more money if they get their model right adding that every one of them wants to run scheduled flights whereas there is a lot they can do in aviation. He added, “There is an airline that owes one of the agencies N13bn. There is an airline that owes total debt of N500 billion, which is its collective indebtedness of that airline. That airline crashed or at least it is being taken over. I think it is getting their priority right and doing the business model that would bring money for them, the Minister fumed.

Stating that such business principle would not help the industry, he further explained that, “Under this administration, it is not going to happen to allow them to continue to pile debt and go to the villa and the debts are either waived off or the debts are post- dated. No villa will call any airline. There is no door that is open for such practice,” Siraki affirmed. The Minister therefore advised the airlines to get their act together to reorganise, re-engineer and take advantage and be futuristic and looking at the bigger future and organize themselves and take advantage of the Single African Air Transport Market (SAATM) rather than sit and watch while the train is moving.

On SAATM, Sirika said Nigeria was among the first 11 countries that went to Yamoussoukro and took a decision to liberalize the sector and open the sky for Africa for growth, connectivity, development, aviation security and job creation. “Now, arising from that and Nigeria being a signatory to that, the SAATM became the issue and Nigeria also joined to become the first 23 countries to make that solemn declaration on SAATM and I think Nigeria with population of 173m people, half the size of West Africa, would be the greatest beneficiary to this.

“At the time Nigeria was pushing for this you and I know we had Nigeria Airways and we thought we would take advantage of it. Now we don’t and our airlines for one reason or another have not grown to that capacity and this is why the government felt that we should set in motion to create a robust carrier that would take advantage of this SAATM for the benefit of the Nigerian people. So I believe we are on the right course. I believe that this private sector-led and driven airline once established would become the dominant carrier in Africa because the market is Nigeria. Its centrality to Africa, by its geography is god- given. And with the market of 173million people, this is a large population and Nigeria travels almost for nothing. So if you talk of advantage, Nigeria is at a vantage position…,” he concluded.

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